With virtually the whole team returning, first-year coach Rich Valdez walks into the White River High girls wrestling room with high expectations for the coming season.
“As a first-year coach I’m excited about the numbers,” he said. “I’m ecstatic.”
The 18 Lady Hornets almost double last year’s turnout number. That’s good news for the Hornets, who placed 14th in the state at February’s 2A tournament.
Returning to the lineup are state third-place medalist, senior Mikaela Kilcup, and state fifth-place finisher, junior Dylan Fagan.
This year’s shakeup in weight classifications should have little bearing on where the 152-pounders land.
Sam Mitchell, a 2010 state sixth-place finisher, also returns to the roster. Mitchell broke her arm in the Hornets’ opener last season and had to sit out.
Also back, are senior state-participant Jesslyn Blue and Kamy Padgett, who finished seventh in state in 2010.
Valdez, who spent time with White River High’s boys program, middle school program and junior wrestling program, has high expectations for the Lady Hornets and was pleased to see they are up for the challenge.
“The work ethic of the girls is fantastic,” he said. “They’re definitely in a tougher place and rising to the challenge.”
Valdez, along with volunteer assistant Jeff Meagher, says the emphasis for the season is to see the ladies’ success on the mat carry over into the real world as good citizens and students, but the competitor in him would also like to see the Lady Hornets in the Top 10 at state with White River posting its first female state wrestling champion.